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How To Improve Your Sleep Quality And Maintain A Healthy, Productive Life

How To Improve Your Sleep Quality And Maintain A Healthy, Productive Life

“To sleep, perchance to dream…”

Okay, so Hamlet was talking about death. But for the purpose of this article, can we just pretend he was talking about hitting the hay for a good night’s rest?

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It’s no surprise that you need to be rested and refreshed in order to be as productive as possible each and every day. Unfortunately, though, sometimes sleep doesn’t come as easy as it should. Those restless nights aren’t entirely random, however. Your actions leading to laying down for the night determine whether you’ll be able to drift off to dreamland, or find yourself wide awake, counting endless sheep until three in the morning.

If you need a good night’s sleep, make sure to:

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1. Avoid chemicals

Tobacco, drugs, alcohol, even caffeine can all keep you from nodding off easily for a variety of reasons. Obviously, caffeine and other stimulants are going to keep you up, even if taken hours beforehand. While alcohol technically does the opposite, you’ll find yourself waking up in the middle of the night after the numbing effects wear off. Don’t you miss the college days, when you could actually sleep through a hangover?

2. Avoid junk food

In the same vein as other chemicals, eating junk food before bed is going to come back to haunt you overnight. If you’ve ever seen Home Improvement, you’ve seen the running gag in which Tim eats some spicy food or sausage and peppers as a “quick snack,” only to end up groaning all night while holding his stomach. While it’s difficult to sleep on a completely empty stomach, you shouldn’t pack it all in before bed as if you’re going to the electric chair. Eat a light snack such as fruit or a salad to hold you over until the morning.

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3. Stay hydrated

Hopefully you’ve taken my previous advice and started drinking more water throughout the day. Your fluid intake throughout the day greatly affects your ability to sleep through the night. Think about it: you go six to eight hours every night without taking a single sip of water. If you hadn’t consumed enough throughout the day, you’re going to end up severely dehydrated overnight. Obviously, you don’t want to drink so much that you keep waking up for other reasons, but make sure you have a glass of the good stuff about an hour before you lay down at night.

4. Eliminate noise

Going to sleep with the TV on is bad enough for your mental and physical health, but now we’ve thrown cell phones into the mix as well. And “noise” doesn’t just refer to sound; excess lighting can also interrupt a good night’s sleep, even on a subconscious level. Finally, the “noise” your thoughts create definitely make it harder to drift off; how can you sleep when you have so much to take care of? As best you can, put your worries on the shelf until morning. There’s really not much you can get done at 1:00AM on a Tuesday, anyway.

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5. Have a routine

Having a routine for pretty much anything makes life easier, right? When your life follows a natural progression, the next step comes to you like clockwork. You probably already have a ritual that you follow, that includes brushing your teeth, washing your face, and other preparatory acts to get you ready to hit the sack. If so, what happens when you miss one of the steps? It probably keeps you up longer than you want to be. If you have a ritual or routine, stick to it. Not only will it help you sleep better, but it’s probably healthier, too.

6. Earn your sleep

If you’ve ever had a day in which you didn’t put much effort into your work or slacked off, neglecting errands in favor of sitting on the couch all evening, it’s more than likely you found it hard to fall asleep that night. Sleep is the human equivalent of recharging our batteries; if we haven’t used up our energy, we have no need to recharge. Of course, if we miss out on a night’s sleep, we’ll certainly feel it the next day, and the cycle of unproductiveness will continue. Take advantage of every single day by putting your all into everything you do. When you go to bed completely exhausted, no matter what else you have going on in life, sleep will come easy.

Featured photo credit: his side of the bed / Liz Lister via farm6.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on February 21, 2019

12 Best Brain Foods That Improve Memory and Boost Brain Power

12 Best Brain Foods That Improve Memory and Boost Brain Power

Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory:

1. Nuts

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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2. Blueberries

Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

4. Broccoli

While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

6. Soy

Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

7. Dark chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate:

15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

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B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

9. Foods Rich in Zinc

Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

10. Gingko biloba

This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

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It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

11. Green and black tea

Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

Find out more about green tea here:

11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

12. Sage and Rosemary

Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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